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An Apple A Day Keeps the Doctor Away - Lucy's story

Recovery. What can be said about recovery from an eating disorder?

It’s not fun, let me tell you that, but however frustrating, painful, boring it can be; the alternative is much worse. I have been in recovery for a while now, having been diagnosed with an eating disorder roughly ten years ago. It's infuriating, finding myself back in the same hospital I have been in twice already. However, this time feels different. Something within me has shifted, and it feels incredible. Still painful, still infuriating, still boring, still horrible, but I have learned a lot in my journey over the past decade. I am so sick of letting this control me, time I took jurisdiction of my own self and finally put an end to this all-consuming illness.

I suffer from type 1 diabetes alongside an eating disorder and this can often be a deadly combination. The fact that managing type 1 diabetes is solely reliant on the ingestion of a balanced, healthy, carb filled diet seems to be some sort of crude joke, as that is something I just can't seem to get right. Many people who suffer from both diabetes and an eating disorder suffer from an illness which has been coined ‘diabulimia’, which involves avoiding giving insulin and running sugars dangerously high, to cause weight loss. This can, and often does, result in disastrous implications to your body. This is not something I struggle with – in my case it is the opposite (just to make things even more complicated). There is no cure for Type 1 diabetes currently, but the technology and advancements made in the past few years have changed the way we approach this illness – it is no longer a death sentence, and we can live the same normal lives as anyone around us!

Being diagnosed with diabetes is a lifestyle change. Trying to manage this alongside an eating disorder can prove to be very difficult and the pressure to keep blood sugars level whilst also making sure you eat the right things can often be overwhelming. Much like eating disorder recovery it involves a lot of practice, a lot of outside help from nurses and medical professionals, and most of all involves patience. Something I do not have much of, but with practice, I am slowly getting there.

Physical recovery and mental recovery are two very different things; the body can often heal itself fairly quickly with a healthy, balanced diet, but the mind takes a little, or a long while to catch up. The guilt is astounding and shocks me even now how strong it can be inside my head, how loud that eating disordered voice is shouting, trying to force itself to the forefront of my mind, trying to make me ill, trying to take over. The measurement for deciding treatment for an eating disorder is, unfortunately, currently based largely on weight.

I am here to remind you: you do not have to be underweight to suffer from an eating disorder. If you are struggling in any way, please seek help. Speak to your GP, your parents, your partner, your friends. Do not do as I did and try to ignore it, feeling like I would be burdening anyone with my problems. Your loved ones, your GP, everybody will be glad you have reached out.

An eating disorder, to me, feels like I am lost at sea. I am on a raft, and I can feel the waves rocking underneath me, life happening around me, but that's it – it's all just an inch too far out for me to reach. I look in every direction and cannot figure out which way is home… a huge space around me full of emptiness, it's confusing, terrifying. Eating disorders thrive on, and aim for loneliness, trying to isolate the sufferer to a point that they can no longer face their closest friends and family. My advice? Find your anchor, find a light and a goal to reach for. Focus on who you want to be, who you are without the eating disorder. Thrive on and celebrate small wins. This could be ‘I ate breakfast today’, ‘I went for a walk with my sister’, ‘I managed to shower and get dressed.’ It doesn’t matter how small it may seem – any progress is good progress. Personally, I enjoy aiming high, aiming for the life I long for, and know I can have without hospital and outside the confining terms of my eating disorder. I aim for a girls’ holiday with my closest friends, taking my niece swimming, family picnics on Easter, Christmas celebrated with laughter, bucks’ fizz, pigs in blankets and bad jokes from a cracker. It’s the little things, the everyday joyous moments that an eating disorder strips you of – those little defining moments which you can look back with a nostalgic smile.

I try to take on recovery one step at a time and urge you to do the same. One day, one hour, one meal, one bite at a time. Focusing on the small goals, whilst constantly reminding yourself of why you are doing this is a method that I have found to be incredibly helpful. I find if I think about the entire weeks’ worth of food and meals I must face, this can be incredibly overwhelming… so just take it one minute at a time! When anxiety hits pre, during and after meals (as it inevitably will), try to find a distraction. Distractions work differently for everyone, just as not everyone has the same taste in food! Distractions could be anything – anything that brings calm and a sense of peace to your jumbled brain. This could be writing, watching television, chatting to your loved ones, losing yourself in a book, giving your pet a cuddle, journaling. The list is endless! Find what works for you and utilise this to the best of your ability.

Recovery can, and most likely will, take some time. Don’t put so much pressure on yourself to be ‘cured’ overnight, it will take patience and practice, but it is so, so worth it. You are better than the voice in your head, telling you you’re not good enough. You deserve happiness, you deserve all the things on your inspiration list. You are so loved, cherished, you are you. So, fight for you!

Contributed by Lucy